High prevalence of previously unknown subclinical hypothyroidism in obese patients referred to a sleep clinic for sleep disordered breathing

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2004 Oct;14(5):248-53. doi: 10.1016/s0939-4753(04)80051-6.


Background and aim: To evaluate the prevalence of previously unknown hypothyroidism in adult male and female patients with a wide range of body mass index (BMI) values, referred to a Sleep Clinic because of sleep disordered breathing (SDB).

Methods and results: Serum concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxin (fT4), as well as forced vital capacity (FVC), PaO2, PaCO2, the Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS), respiratory disturbance index (RDI), loud snoring, and the percentage of total sleep time (TST) with <90% oxyhemoglobin saturation (TST(saO2<90%)) were measured in 78 overweight and obese adult subjects with no previous diagnosis of hypothyroidism (age: 18-72 years). The prevalence of previously undiagnosed subclinical hypothyroidism in the population as a whole was 11.5%. BMI, TSH and ESS were significantly higher in the hypothyroid than the euthyroid subjects, but there was no significant between-group difference in RDI, TST(saO2<90%) or the other investigated variables, including the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Among the hypothyroid individuals, BMI, neck circumference, ESS, RDI and TST(Sao2<90%) were significantly higher in those with than in those without OSA. Furthermore, there was a clear trend towards a lower FVC% and higher snoring score in the OSA patients.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate a higher prevalence of hypothyroidism than that commonly reported in overweight and obese individuals referred to a Sleep Clinic for polysomnography because of SDB, thus suggesting that thyroid function should be evaluated in all obese patients suffering from SDB despite economic concerns.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / blood
  • Hypothyroidism / complications*
  • Hypothyroidism / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Polysomnography
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / blood
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology*
  • Snoring / etiology
  • Thyrotropin / blood


  • Thyrotropin